MSF-La Quinta College Football Road Trip Week 3:
#8 West Virginia at #11 Texas Preview and Prediction

Our managing editor, Jerod, has had the opportunity of a lifetime this season, thanks to La Quinta.

He is traveling over the course of four weeks to take in games and experience the atmospheres in some of the most famous college football-crazed cities.

Last week Jerod was in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Huskers overcame an early 20-3 deficit to beat the Wisconsin Badgers. His recap and photo diary of the trip is a true encapsulation of what sports are all about: spending time with the people close to you and enjoying the camaraderie of cheering on the competition.

This week Jerod is headed to Austin, Texas on the third leg of his college football road trip, courtesy of La Quinta. He will see a clash between new Big 12 member West Virginia and perennial Big 12 stalwart Texas.

You can check out what has Jerod excited about this weekend here.

Here’s a preview of the action this Saturday in Austin.

West Virginia at Texas

There is no secret what the big story is this week: Geno Smith.

The Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) piled up record numbers last week against Baylor en route to a 70-63 win in Morgantown. Smith threw for 656 yards and 8 touchdowns, Stedman Bailey had 13 catches for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns, and West Virginia had enough offensive firepower to make up for a defense that was decimated by Baylor’s passing attack.

Smith is now the leader in the race for the Heisman Trophy, as he has led the Mountaineers to become the nation’s top passing offense under head coach Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen has previously coordinated high-power offenses at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, so Smith’s success in his system isn’t necessarily surprising.

Through 4 weeks, Geno Smith is the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Photo by: Justin K. Aller via Orlando Sentinel

West Virginia’s defense, however, has been atrocious, ranking 106th in FBS in total defense. They allowed 63 points and 581 yards passing to quarterback Nick Florence and Baylor last week.

Texas has, somewhat quietly, ascended to #11 in the nation behind a 4-0 start. The Longhorns are coming off consecutive road wins win in which their defense, considered at the start of the year to be one of the nation’s best, allowed 31 and 36 points, respectively.

Texas coach Mack Brown estimates that his defense missed at least 12 tackles last week against Oklahoma State, and it is certain that mistakes like that can spell doom against such a potent offense as West Virginia.

Longhorns sophomore quarterback David Ash has had quite a season of his own so far. He is second to Smith in passing efficiency with a rating of 184.0, and he has just one interception to go with 10 touchdown passes. Completing 78% of his passes, Ash has excelled faster than most thought he would.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Texas without a strong running game. The Longhorns average 228 yards per game behind a young, three-headed attack featuring Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown, and Johnathan Gray.

Let’s look at the keys for each team.

What West Virginia Must Do To Win

Geno must be Geno. It’s really as simple as that.

Seriously examine some of the numbers: 83.4% completions; 20 touchdowns versus 0 interceptions; as many or more touchdowns than incompletions in 3 of 4 games. It’s tough to put up those numbers on NCAA Football 13.

Last week we learned that West Virginia can win even if they can’t get stops for an entire game. That’s a daunting prospect for Texas. If Smith, Bailey and Tavon Austin (it would be fitting for him to have a huge game in Austin, huh?) go off, the Mountaineers have a great chance of winning.

Smith’s top weapons, Stedman Bailey (#3) and Tavon Austin (#1). Photo by: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

With a defense that is playing this poorly, it might be necessary for the offense to keep up this pace to win. It will be important for West Virginia to slow down the Texas run game. If the Longhorns are able to control the ball and the clock with their rushing attack, Geno will be forced to stay on the sideline.

What Texas Must Do To Win

No doubt Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz have been up late every night trying to think up ways to do what no one else has been able to do: limit Geno Smith.

For Texas to win this game, they have to eliminate the huge plays that West Virginia has shown an incredible propensity for producing. Consistent tackling in the secondary will be key, as a single miss can mean the difference between a medium gain and a long touchdown.

David Ash has done an excellent job managing games, but in this game he will need to do more than that.

Texas QB David Ash has been very good this season. He’ll need to be great Saturday night. Photo by: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press via

West Virginia is especially susceptible downfield, so look for receiver Mike Davis to be Ash’s primary target. Also be on the lookout for Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic long jumper and phenomenal athlete. He can make people miss in space, and with West Virginia’s troubles in the secondary could be a threat to catch and run for scores.

The most important key, to me, is Texas’ ability to run the ball. If the Longhorns can rotate those three backs and have success up front, they control the clock and possession of the ball. Smith, Bailey and Austin can’t do damage if they’re not on the field.

The fewer possessions this game features, the better chance Texas has to win.

West Virginia – Texas Prediction

Maybe I’m just drinking the Geno Kool-Aid right now, but I don’t see any way that Texas slows down the Mountaineers enough to win this game, even at home.

Transcendent athletes find ways to win games like this, and I think Smith is that kind of athlete.

Some might expect a letdown game after the hype from last week, but I think Holgorsen will have his team focused and ready.

Texas will score a bunch, too, though, so I see it staying close. Look for big numbers from both sides (although not Baylor-WVU big).

Final Score: West Virginia – 42, Texas – 38


West Virginia – Texas Game Info

  • West Virginia – Texas Date: Saturday, October 6, 2012
  • West Virginia – Texas Kickoff Time: 7:00 PM ET
  • West Virginia – Texas TV: FOX
  • West Virginia – Texas Point Spread: Texas -6.5
  • West Virginia – Texas Over/Under: 75


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About the Author

Keith Mullett

Keith is an Ohio-based sports and pop culture junkie who began writing for MSF in June 2011. His ramblings about sports, music, movies and books can be further enjoyed by following him on Twitter @keithmullett. In addition to his work for MSF, Keith operates a blog called Commercial Grade, in which he critiques television commercials from the perspective of the average viewer.